Hazmat, bomb teams oversee removal of SM East fridge with chemical spill

Photo by Daniel M. Blom.

The chemical spill that caused a set of small explosions in an SM East refrigerator and drew emergency responders from throughout Johnson County Monday may have been relatively minor — but hazardous materials crews weren’t taking any chances in clearing the situation.

Both the Overland Park Bomb Squad and Hazardous Materials Team oversaw the removal of the refrigerator from school grounds Monday evening.

Overland Park’s Fire Department put out the following release on the incident:

Just after 1 p.m. today [Monday], crews from Consolidated Fire District 2 were called to Shawnee Mission East High School for a chemical spill in the chemistry lab storage room. Firefighters found a chemical that had spilled inside a storage refrigerator in the chemistry lab storage area.

Consolidated Fire District 2 called in the Overland Park Fire Department’s Hazardous Materials Team along with the Overland Park Police Bomb and Tactical Unit to assist.

The substance, nitrogen triiodide, is a mild, but very unstable chemical, used in chemistry  classes to illustrate the instability of some chemicals.  The typical demonstration involves a small amount of the chemical and produces an explosion equivalent to small firecracker. A slightly larger amount of the chemical was being stored in the lab’s refrigerator.

Because the spill was contained, crews decided to allow school to conclude before mitigating the incident.  School officials stress that at no time were students or faculty in danger. Adjacent  areas of the building were evacuated by school officials, as a precaution. School eventually  dismissed on time.

Currently, OPPD’s Bomb Technicians are preparing to secure and remove the entire refrigerator to a safe location for disposal. Hazardous Materials Teams are monitoring the situation. There is deemed to be no danger to surrounding residents. Prairie Village Police are on scene, along with  school officials and Johnson County Med-Act.